The Foxglove Project
About the Project
I spent most of 2016 working in Rwanda for a local NGO. Through this work, photographing and collecting stories, I encountered women and their families whose lives had been dramatically transformed through self-help groups. You can read more about self-help groups here.
While I was in Rwanda, The Foxglove Project, an Australian fundraising organisation, was funding the creation of groups in Rwanda’s hilly Southern Province. We agreed that we had an ideal opportunity to capture the stories of these women (over ninety percent of groups are women) as they entered a self-help group, and to follow them through the group over two to three years. I wanted to hear from them before they started with their groups, to get an idea of their lives now, and what they hope for from the group.
I know from talking to women who have been some years in self-help groups that their outlook will change: from seeing the groups as a lender of money to finding their own confidence, finding a voice in their community, and finding a family in their group. As some of these women already in groups told me their history, I could see in their faces the amazement at their own story. Never would they have thought...
A while back I left behind my day job to do what you see here, tell stories through photographs and words (if a picture is worth a thousand words, what about a picture and words?). I have worked in Rwanda, Ghana, Cambodia, and of course my home country Australia. You can see more of my work on my website: www.geoffbartlett.photography
About my partners
The Foxglove Project and AEE Rwanda do the fantastic work of bringing self-help groups to women in rural Rwanda.
This website publishes the first set of six stories. I will be returning to Rwanda in September 2017 to catch up with these women again, see where they are now, and to add a new set stories from women entering groups. My target is ten to fifteen women. As the process evolves, so will this website. I hope to add in stories from the women’s husbands and families, where available, to understand the changes their lives; how they feel about the groups and their wives’ and mothers’ journeys.
I think these stories are worth telling on their own merits. Although the women often come from great hardship, and will continue to live in conditions that most readers of this website would find very hard, their stories are positive and inspiring. These are good stories to let out into the world.
I hope to inform potential donors about a different way to help in developing countries, one that has had remarkable success in moving families above the poverty line.
Most of all, I hope to show these women and their families as the people they are, just getting on with it as best they can even though saddled with difficult circumstances, and to show that we all have something to offer.
How to help
This project has been self-funded to date, excepting in-country transport and accommodation supplied by AEE Rwanda and The Foxglove Project.
If you think you can help, please contact me. Areas that I can think of are:
Funding (of course!), but this can include pointing me in the direction of likely grants, or photographic work.
Promotion - how can I get these stories to a wider audience
Website design - suggestions on and assistance with improving this website
Next steps - how to take these stories beyond a website
and... anything else I might not have mentioned
....and, of course, please support The Foxglove Project in funding self-help groups in Rwanda.
Foxglove is a registered Australian charity supporting sustainable women and girl projects in the Developing World.
Many of us would widely agree on what we would love to see: clean water, food security and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, education and literacy, better employment opportunities, housing and security. The outcomes are clear but HOW to achieve these outcomes is still in dispute.
For many decades the development approach has been centred upon the generosity of the West – a donor based model – but now many years down the track we find that the returns are far poorer than expected. In fact after trillions of charity dollars being donated to Africa, people are in a worse condition with a rapidly rising gap between the rich and poor.
Foxglove has been founded with 5 objectives in mind:
Our focus is international: 87% of the Australian charity dollar goes to Australian-based initiatives. Foxglove sees its role in the Third World where needs are significant and a small amount of funds make a remarkable difference.
We keep our Australian expenses very lean. We spend a maximum of 13 cents of every dollar in Australia:
We only partner with Indigenous organisations: Foxglove only partners with indigenous in-country organisations that have the capacity to develop and implement effective local projects.
We focus on women and girls: Women in the developing world spend 80 cents of every dollar they earn on family and community. It is estimated that a woman leaving poverty will take between 5-7 others with her.
We take a sustainable approach to development: Projects reliant on ongoing financial support inevitably move towards dependence and disempowerment. Foxglove will only support projects that are committed to outcomes of independence and self-sufficiency.
AEE Rwanda is a local Rwandan NGO working to promote the rights of children, alleviate poverty, and empower Rwandan's regardless of gender or religion. AEE Rwanda is based in the captial Kigali, and has ten branch offices across Rwanda that manage local programs.
AEE Rwanda pioneered the self-help group approach in Rwanda, importing the concept after seeing its success in India, and has replicated that success in Rwanda. By 2016, AEE Rwanda had established close to 12,000 groups reaching over 200,000 people.